Jason Hall seeks to illuminate a forgotten set of warriors in new movie 'Thank You For Your Service'
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Jason Hall seeks to illuminate a forgotten set of warriors in ‘Thank You For Your Service’

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Jason Hall has worked in the company of legends. The former actor has always aspired to be a filmmaker and transitioned to screenwriting work over the last decade. It’s brought him opportunities to work with iconic filmmakers like Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. The experience on Eastwood’s American Sniper brought accolades from across the industry, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and an opportunity to direct his first feature. But for all the elbow running with industry titans, the proudest accomplishments in Hall’s career are working with those in the shadows of the U.S. military; the enlisted men and women of the armed forces and the stories like those in Thank You For Your Service that he feels privileged to tell.

Thank You For Your Service, adapted by Hall from David Finkel’s extensive book documenting the experience of soldiers returning from deployments in Iraq in 2007, is a gripping look at the unseen wounds of war and the crisis it’s causing among veterans. Miles Teller players Adam Schumann, an enlisted Major whose final tour in Iraq culminates with multiple tragedies for his squad. Back in the states, his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) is eager to have her husband home but knows his behavior is hiding a darker mood. An unavoidable series of events, including questions from Amanda Doster (Amy Schumer), a widow looking for answers to her husband’s death, cause Schumann to confront the collateral damage around him—the traumatic brain injuries suffered by Tausolo Aeiti (Beulah Koale), the emotional traumas of Will Waller (Joe Cole), and the sniper attack that left Michael Emory (Scott Haze) maimed and partially paralyzed.

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to sit down with Hall and discuss his motivations in crafting a story, his personal connections to the material, and the reaction this particular story has received from those he depicts, whose stories continue after the big-budget war scenes that the majority of Hollywood war films tell.

In creating the story of what Hall calls the “working class warriors of our armed services,” Hall allows the characters to inform the story, instead of the story guiding his characters. The film opens during an operation that leads to a firefight, but Hall doesn’t see the battle as the driving force for the rest of the story. “The inciting incident back home is Amanda asking ‘How did my husband die?’”, Hall tells me, and it’s through line drove the story he built. Hall pulls back from the film to discuss his method of finding the story as a writer. “When you read Making Movies or go to script writing classes or do script doctor work, you learn the basics of storytelling like three-act structures,” Hall says. “But no one taught me how to take a character arch. It wasn’t something I learned from any of those classes, so I had to start studying.”

Hall’s favorite influence is in movie storytelling of the past. “The films I love in the ’70s, they go from resistance to release. There’s a character who resists doing something at the beginning and fights it, fights it, fights it,” he emphasizes energetically. “Then somewhere around the midpoint, there’s a release. That release leads to a moment of grace, and then more problems.” In Thank You For Your Service, those additional problems are found in the confounding maze of administration in the Veterans Administration, a process that causes desperate decisions in the film, and in real life.

Thank You For Your Service is imbued with truthful storytelling that’s caught on with those families dramatized in the film. “The first time I showed Adam (Schumann, the real-life veteran who is played by Teller in the film) I showed him in New York, we didn’t have the score yet or anything, and it was – we got him some popcorn and a coke and he said he didn’t touch the popcorn or the coke the whole time, he basically cried for an hour and forty-five minutes. He had these experiences of beauty and…experiencing this love that he had with his wife.” It’s also caught on with other veterans. “The most common response I’ve got from veterans is ‘Somebody finally told our story'”, Hall says, and he finds it surprising, especially after the success of American Sniper. But they inform him “That’s Chris Kelly’s story, that’s like, you know, one in a million. This is our story. This is what we experienced.”

Hall has family roots in the armed services. His brother served in the early 90’s and was on the ground during Operation: Desert Storm, and his brother-in-law was deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom. He’s seen the costs of war takes on families, and hopes that Thank You For Your Service is an opportunity for those viewing it to talk more openly about their experiences. “The soldiers want people to know [their experience] and they identify super personally with it, but it’s also that part that’s like ‘Are we ready to share this?’ It’s that part where any warrior that goes home,” Hall explains. It’s something he’s seen in how families are looking for answers about their loved one’s lives, but the trauma of their deployments makes the conversations difficult.

During the conversation, Hall emphasized the realism he aimed for. Extensive research, after action reports, a room of 200 veterans as extras waiting in the on-set Veterans Affairs office, and the close relationships developed by the actors on screen and the men and women whose lives were drawn upon from the movie. In Thank You For Your Service, Hall seeks to illuminate a forgotten set of warriors with a story that has been seldom told. “To know what the consequences of war are is tremendously important to society,” he said. “These guys are honorable young men and women, who are making the decision to serve their country and it’s beholden upon us, not just the government but the citizens to make sure we’re making the right decisions, electing people that make the right decisions to put us into conflicts that are as equally honorable as the men we are sending over there.” Hall hopes it leads to conversations, especially with those whose families have served.

“We just get a lot of people coming up to us and saying, ‘Thank you for telling this story. My brother, my uncle, my grandpa served.'” And when confided with this information, Hall asks those audience members, ‘’Does he talk about it?’ When the all too common shaking of heads “no” comes, Hall engages them to action, “Tell him you saw the movie and tell him you have a new understanding of maybe what he went through just open the door a little bit. Leave it open and sooner or later…a lot of these guys will walk through that door if it’s open and they feel you understand that.” 

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A24 leads 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards nominees with a whopping 18 nominations

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The Farewell Spirit Awards Gotham Awards
A24

The nominations for the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards were announced Monday with A24 leading the nominees, picking up a whopping 18 nods for titles such as The Farewell, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Lighthouse, and Uncut Gems.

“The Film Independent Spirit Awards celebrate the best films of the year – films characterized by creative independence and original, provocative subject matter, as well as diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision,” said Film Independent president Josh Welsh.

The nominees for Best Feature include A Hidden LifeClemencyThe Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Marriage Story, which was also selected to receive the Robert Altman Award for director, casting director, and ensemble cast.

“At a time when the film business is undergoing such change and challenges, it’s important to loudly celebrate the work itself – the films! – and to recognize 2019 as a year of bold, audacious and accomplished filmmaking,” Welsh added. “That’s what the Spirit Awards are all about.”

The 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards will be handed out Saturday, February 8 during a ceremony that will air live on IFC at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET. The complete list of nominees is as follows:

BEST FEATURE (Award given to the producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)

A Hidden Life
Producers: Elisabeth Bentley, Dario Bergesio, Grant Hill, Josh Jeter

Clemency
Producers: Timur Bekbosunov, Julian Cautherley, Bronwyn Cornelius, Peter Wong

The Farewell
Producers: Anita Gou, Daniele Melia, Andrew Miano, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Lulu Wang, Chris Weitz, Jane Zheng

Marriage Story
Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman

Uncut Gems
Producers: Eli Bush, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Scott Rudin

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)

Booksmart
Director: Olivia Wilde
Producers: Chelsea Barnard, David Distenfeld, Jessica Elbaum, Megan Ellison, Katie Silberman

The Climb
Director/Producer: Michael Angelo Covino
Producers: Noah Lang, Kyle Marvin

Diane
Director: Kent Jones
Producers: Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Caroline Kaplan, Oren Moverman

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director/Producer: Joe Talbot
Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Khaliah Neal, Christina Oh

The Mustang
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Producer: Ilan Goldman

See You Yesterday
Director: Stefon Bristol
Producer: Spike Lee

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)

Burning Cane
Writer/Director/Producer: Phillip Youmans
Producers: Ojo Akinlana, Jakob Johnson, Karen Kaia Livers, Mose Mayer, Wendell Pierce, Isaac Webb, Cassandra Youmans

Colewell
Writer/Director: Tom Quinn
Producers: Joshua Blum, Alexandra Byer, Craig Shilowich, Matthew Thurm

Give Me Liberty
Writer/Director/Producer: Kirill Mikhanovsky
Writer/Producer: Alice Austen
Producers: Val Abel, Wally Hall, Michael Manasseri, George Rush, Sergey Shtern

Premature
Writer/Director/Producer: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Writer: Zora Howard
Producer: Darren Dean, Joy Ganes

Wild Nights With Emily
Writer/Director/Producer: Madeleine Olnek
Producers: Anna Margarita Albelo, Casper Andreas, Max Rifkind-Barron

BEST DIRECTOR

Alma Har’el
Honey Boy

Lorene Scafaria
Hustlers

Julius Onah
Luce

Robert Eggers
The Lighthouse

Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Uncut Gems

BEST SCREENPLAY

Noah Baumbach
Marriage Story

Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder
To Dust

Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Uncut Gems

Chinonye Chukwu
Clemency

Tarell Alvin McCraney
High Flying Bird

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol
See You Yesterday

Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen
Driveways

Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy
Blow the Man Down

Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe
Greener Grass

James Montague, Craig W. Sanger
The Vast of Night

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Todd Banhazl
Hustlers

Jarin Blaschke
The Lighthouse

Natasha Braier
Honey Boy

Chananun Chotrungroj
The Third Wife

Pawel Pogorzelski
Midsommar

BEST EDITING

Julie Béziau
The Third Wife

Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie
Uncut Gems

Tyler L. Cook
Sword of Trust

Louise Ford
The Lighthouse

Kirill Mikhanovsky
Give Me Liberty

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Karen Allen
Colewell

Hong Chau
Driveways

Elisabeth Moss
Her Smell

Mary Kay Place
Diane

Alfre Woodard
Clemency

Renée Zellweger
Judy

BEST MALE LEAD

Chris Galust
Give Me Liberty

Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Luce

Robert Pattinson
The Lighthouse

Matthias Schoenaerts
The Mustang

Adam Sandler
Uncut Gems

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Jennifer Lopez
Hustlers

Taylor Russell
Waves

Lauren “Lolo” Spencer
Give Me Liberty

Octavia Spencer
Luce

Zhao Shuzhen
The Farewell

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Willem Dafoe
The Lighthouse

Noah Jupe
Honey Boy

Shia LaBeouf
Honey Boy

Jonathan Majors
The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Wendell Pierce
Burning Cane

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast

Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach
Casting Directors: Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler
Ensemble Cast: Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson,
Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)

American Factory
Director/Producer: Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert
Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Jeff Reichert

Apollo 11
Director/Producer: Todd Douglas Miller
Producers: Evan Krauss, Thomas Baxley Petersen

For Sama
Director: Edward Watts
Director/Producer: Waad al-Kateab

Honeyland
Director: Tamara Kotevska
Director/Producer: Ljubo Stefanov
Producer: Atanas Georgiev

Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Director/Producer: Gabrielle Brady
Producers: Gizem Acarla, Samm Haillay, Alex Kelly, Alexander Wadouh

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)

Invisible Life
Brazil
Director: Karim Aïnouz

Les Misérables
France
Director: Ladj Ly

Parasite
South Korea
Director: Bong Joon-Ho

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
France
Director: Céline Sciamma

Retablo
Peru
Director: Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio L.

The Souvenir
United Kingdom
Director: Joanna Hogg

BONNIE AWARD – Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo joined American Airlines in 1973 at age 24, becoming the first female pilot to fly for a major U.S. airline. In her honor, the third Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant, sponsored by American Airlines.

Marielle Heller

Kelly Reichardt

Lulu Wang

PRODUCERS AWARD – The 23rd annual Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

Mollye Asher

Krista Parris

Ryan Zacarias

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 26th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

Rashaad Ernesto Green
Director of Premature

Ash Mayfair
Director of The Third Wife

Joe Talbot
Director of The Last Black Man in San Francisco

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 25th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.

Khalik Allah
Director of Black Mother

Davy Rothbart
Director of 17 Blocks

Nadia Shihab
Director of Jaddoland

Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside
Director of América

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‘The Call of the Wild’ trailer finds Harrison Ford, his dog embarking on an epic adventure

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Call of the Wild
20TH CENTURY FOX

20th Century Fox has released the trailer for The Call of the Wild, the first live-action effort from Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon director Chris Sanders starring Harrison Ford.

Based on the novel by Jack London, The Call of the Wild chronicles the story of Buck, a dog whose life is turned upside down when he’s uprooted from his California home and taken to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon where he meets John Thornton (Ford), a seasoned gold prospector, during the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s.

In addition to Ford, the film’s cast ensemble cast also includes the likes of Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan, Omar Sy, Bradley Whitford, Colin Woodell, Scott MacDonald, and Cara Gee.

Michael Green scripted the film, which is produced by Erwin Stoff, with Diana Pokorny serving as executive producer and Ryan Stafford co-producing.

The Call of the Wild hits theaters February 1.

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Contest: Enter to win ‘Angel Has Fallen’ on Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment

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Angel Has Fallen
LIONSGATE

Lionsgate Home Entertainment will release Angel Has Fallen on Blu-ray/DVD on November 26 and it’s giving Silver Screen Beat readers a chance to win a Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital) of the film.

Our readers can click this link right now to enter to win an Angel Has Fallen combo pack, which includes several behind the scenes featurettes and a 3-part audio commentary with director Ric Roman Waugh.

The contest is currently ongoing and will end Sunday, November 24, at which point winners will be selected and notified. Below is the official trailer for Angel Has Fallen as well as some additional details about the film.

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Alan Siegel, Matt O’Toole, John Thompson, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner, and Mike Touzard

Rating: R for violence and language throughout

4K UHD / BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  • “Even Angels Fall: The Story” Featurette
  • “Someone to Watch Over Me: New Blood” Featurette
  • “Calling All Angels: Casting” Featurette
  • “True Faith: Authenticity” Featurette
  • “Fight for You: Stunts and Action” Featurette
  • “Earth Angel: Recreating DC” Featurette
  • “Angel Declassified” 3-Part Audio Commentary with Director Ric Roman Waugh

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